India calls article in The Economist on digital divide 'inaccurate'

WION Web Team
New DelhiUpdated: Oct 20, 2021, 10:41 PM IST
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An article in The Economist magazine had said that there was digital divide in India. The government contested the claim made by the magazine

The Indian government has slammed an article in The Economist magazine that highlighted a digital divide in the country. The government said that that article was “inaccurate and biased", it "betrays a severe lack of journalistic diligence" and “contradicts even the past reports” published in the same publication.

The government comments came on an October 16 article titled ‘India’s high-tech governance risks leaving behind its poorest citizens’. The article claimed that though initiatives like Aadhaar provided boost to digital payments and reach of benefits of government schemes it left millions without benefit due to India's size and reasons like poverty and challenges in providing electrical supply and internet coverage.

An excerpt from the article read, "“Given India’s immense scale and complexity, and with its deep pool of highly skilled workers, its governments have increasingly turned to high-tech solutions for all sorts of problems. Generally these have eased burdens on both rulers and the governed, despite some expected glitches. Administrative infrastructure such as Aadhaar has propelled such conveniences as digital payments, internet shopping and online schooling. Yet precisely because of India’s size and poverty, tens of millions still are left out—because they are poor, illiterate, disabled, lack electricity, do not possess a smartphone or cannot connect to a mobile or Wi-Fi network.”

The government countered the assertion by pointing at the boost in number of Indians who got Aadhaar card till June, 2021

“As per UIDAI data in the last one year, the UIDAI has issued around 36 crore new Aadhaar cards to the adult population. In this period the highest number of Aadhaar cards was issued in January 2021 when 53.4 lakh (5.34 million) new Aadhaar card holders were added to the list of Indian population having a digital identity,” the government said in a rejoinder. It was issued in response to The Economist article. It was reportedly issued by Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry.

Government quoted excerpts from a past article published in the magazine to say that the latest assertions contradict what was said in the publication earlier. The title of the past write-up is ‘Time for proof’.

"Creating a digital ID system is hard and expensive. Yet India, a gigantic and largely poor country, has managed it. Its "Aadhaar" biometric system has created digital identities for 1.3bn people….it has streamlined government services and massively reduced fraud. If rural Indians can prove who they are online, it is scandalous that many Brits and Americans cannot," the excerpt from The Economist said as quoted in the rejoinder.